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With a new year comes new possibilities, so for this week’s Big Q column, Barron’s Advisor asked wealth management leaders to describe their key business goals for 2022. Some, we found, have dramatic plans, like buying firms and hiring overseas staff. For others, 2022 will be about fine-tuning the client experience and crafting post-pandemic approaches to client engagement. All these advisors share the same, perennial goal, however: They want to grow.
Shannon Eusey, CEO, Beacon Pointe Advisors: With 31 offices across the country as the result of several acquisitions, one of our goals is to streamline processes. We’re also implementing better analytics tools across the organization so that our advisors have better access to client information. And as we continue to onboard employees—we went from 100 to north of 300 over the past couple years—we need to make sure we have the appropriate learning and development system in place. We’re looking at how we onboard not just employees, but new offices, so that they hit the ground running and are as productive as they can be when they join the organization.
Something else that’s very important to the organization is having an AI system, both for helping our existing clients and prospecting for new clients. We’re working on something internally that I think will be unique to the industry. I also want us to better showcase what we do as an organization. We already have a great focus on women, but we need to make sure the nation knows that we are the place where female clients can come to get advice, because we’ve got so many female advisors and so much in terms of female leadership. We also need to make sure the marketplace knows that we’ve got estate attorneys on staff. We’ve got folks that understand taxes on staff, we’ve got a whole suite of services that we think are really important for the marketplace to understand.
Peter Mallouk, CEO, Creative Planning: We were the first firm to deliver planning, investments, legal, and tax to individuals nationally, and as we go forward, we’re asking how we can do this in a more cost-effective way utilizing technology, and how we can deliver even more services to those clients. That’s our biggest priority. Second, in 2021 we acquired Lockton’s 401(k) practice. We’re going to try to do something special in the 401(k) space where we can deliver more for that 401(k) participant than anybody else, much like we did in the private space about 15 years ago. And we’re looking at doing more acquisitions where they really can help us become more competitive in local markets.
Jason Katz, advisor, UBS: Driving client engagement in a hybrid world is a top priority. We will make a real effort to make sure that each client is touched at least four times a year, either virtually or in a safe in-person environment. Part of that client engagement is hosting a speaker at least quarterly, whether it’s me on the markets, an economist, a strategist or somebody talking about public policy.
I’ve always had a no-minimum, no-jerk policy. You could have all the money in the world, but if you’re unreasonable, if you’re not open minded, if you’re not respectful, it doesn’t matter: We don’t have a fit, and you can go elsewhere. I want to ensure that my team, not just me, abides by this policy. Because as we’ve learned all too well during Covid, everyone’s time in life is precious. And lastly, continuing to penetrate the next generation or two. We want to offer them, regardless of their means at this particular point, financial planning and advice on anything in their lives with a dollar sign. And we have definitive plans for doing that.
Paul Waller, advisor, Wells Fargo: Bringing in net new assets is a huge goal for 2022; I’d like to grow by 20%. We want to replicate the top quarter of our book as much as possible. One of the reasons we’re so successful is that our investment style is very easy to understand, and so we want to continue to do a really good job of educating our clients. It’s about eliminating the noise, simplifying the process and making it easy for a client to tell the story to somebody else.
Another goal is just staying focused on what clients need and their pain points, and making sure that we’re addressing those. We want to be the quarterback for all things financial; we want clients to come to us and say, “I’m worried about this, can you help me or do you know somebody who can?”
Erin Scannell, advisor, Ameriprise: The big thing for us is investing in technology. We feel the need is coming up fast to be able to give really good advice without always relying on a human. One example is Advice Insights [a software solution], that scrapes across 300 financial planning topics and then analyzes across personas: it’ll look at age, net worth, employment status, marital status, dependent status, and so on, and then it’ll tee up recommendations.
We added 28 net new people last year, and one of the ways we did it was opening up our doors across the country, not only the 13 locations where we have offices. This has helped us to get in the door with really talented people. We’ll do quite a bit more hiring this year, some of it will be abroad. We made our first hire last year in India, and we’re doing due diligence on a placement company that hires in Singapore. The types of roles we would hire through that company would be technology, maybe some client service, maybe some trading, and then marketing, social media, and that sort of stuff. We feel that the future of our business lies with hiring really good, talented people, and then coupling that with technology.
Matt Gulbransen, president, Pine Grove Financial Group: As we’re slowly getting back to the usual activities of the pre-Covid period, our goal is to ramp up a lot more in-person events and face-to-face communication with clients when they feel comfortable with it. In-person contact is such an integral part of our business, and I feel like that suffered a little bit in the past two years.
Another goal would be to reassess the investment landscape and figure out how we want to manage money for clients as we go forward. Given the massive inflation, low interest rates and a period of likely higher interest rates, I think money managers need to reassess the models of the past. They may not be the models of the future. One issue is that, considering the great run we’ve had in bonds, looking at what other options I have at my disposal. Finally, I don’t know yet if we’re going to hire, but if we need to find talent, our goal is to find the right talent and not settle for people who aren’t exactly a fit in a tight labor market.